The Town That Did Not Vote


           

            “We need you to go up north.”

            “But what about the southern precinct?

            “Polls say that is locked up now, in part thanks to you.”

            Tim simply nodded, tiredly but happily, the newest report must have come in when he was on the phones.  “So, where you sending me? New Castle I thought that was still solidly going for our esteemed opponent.” 

            “It is, but that is not where you are going.”

Twelve hours later and seventy-five miles further north.

Tim looked at the diner with its clean classic silver and neon and nearly filled parking lot. That was a good sign because he was hungry.  Tim had scoped the license plates as he went in, at least half were from other counties so this place would be open to a stranger sitting down and talking politics.

Ordering an egg white omelet, whole wheat toast and coffee he smiled at the waitress and assessed the people around him, to his left was a farmer in somewhat clean overalls and a guy that was probably a pharmacist from his smock.

He smiled they were both reading regional papers and his US Senatorial candidate was centered on the paper above the fold looking strong and smart.  Tim spoke up, by now campaigning was becoming second nature to him. 

“That guy looks like he is going to keep the seat and do good things for us.”

The Farmer snorted.

Pharmacist nodded and said. “Us, do you have a mouse in your pocket because you are not talking for me. Probably not for Joseph either.” He said tossing his head towards the other side of Tim.

Joseph the Farmer spoke up as he took a sip of coffee.  “No, he does not.” 

Both turned their pages in a dismissive manner, Tim decided to go on the offensive, but just lightly.  “So are you both for his opponent, because she does not seem very honest.”

“I did not say that did you Samuel?”  Joseph the Farmer said folding his paper and taking out a pen to begin the crossword puzzle.

“I am not for the woman running either.” Samuel the Pharmacist said breaking out his own pen and working on the sudoku puzzle. 

Tim was just finishing up his breakfast and decided not to pursue anything further with these two.  Getting his check, he moved to the cashier and began to pay.  “I am sorry if you got in between those two old sour pusses I hope their fighting did not bother your breakfast.”

Tim shook his head.  “They did not fight; in fact, they sort of seemed to be good friends.” 

The cashier shook her head while ringing up his check.  “Those two, they have been fighting for years, there is not one thing they have agreed on for twenty years, they have sued each other three times over property lines and once over a fender bender. 

Tim shook his head as he left the diner, weird.  Checking his mental map, he turned left on Elm towards Main and to City Hall. Time to make his presence official. 

“Hi, I have an appointment with Mayor Howard.”  Tim said stepping up to the main desk in lobby of the classical old city hall.

The receptionist pointed towards a door located just off the lobby.  Tim nodded and walked to the finely carved door into what he guessed would be the anteroom of the seat of power of this small town, the sign of above the door said Office of the Mayor in darkly stained wood. 

“Are you my nine a.m. appointment or the guy who wants to talk about a trade for the Lionel Engine? Said the man in the center of an enormous train set that took up most of the twenty by thirty-foot room.

“Ah your nine am, excuse me are you, Mayor Howard?” 

“That is a relief, I cannot find the Lionel 400E, I know it is around here somewhere, but I just cannot find it.” The man said with his hands on his hips looking around. “And yes, I am Mayor Howard.”

“If this is a bad time I can come back later?” 

The Mayor kept his hands on his hips and continued to look around the room the train layout.  The organized chaos was made up of tracks and miniature buildings and old carboard boxes. The Mayor moved a few boxes and other trains not on the tracks as if he did not hear Tim, then ducked down and out of view and came up on the outside of the train display a few feet away from Tim.  “Lets go into my office.” He said and walked through another ornately carved door that simply said, Mayor.

Mayor Howard walked to his desk and that is when Tim saw he was not wearing shoes but fuzzy red wool socks.  The man claiming to be the mayor sat behind the large antique desk.  “Now then I understand you are from Senator Phogbound’s office.”

“Ah that is Senator Fogghound sir and I am not on his staff I just work for his campaign.”

“Oh course, my mistake.”  The Mayor said smiling warmly and looking around his desk absently.

“What I came up here to ask you is if we can count on your support for the election seeing as how it is only two weeks away and we have not been campaigning in this area very much.”

The Mayor turned on a device on his desk and Tim heard a low whirling like that of a fan. “Of course, one hundred percent of my support.”  Mayor Howard then opened a desk drawer and pulled out a cigar, he looked at Tim and offered it to him. Tim simply shook his head and the Mayor light up the cigar with an expertly lite match and after a few puffs he spoke. “We do not get many visitors up here from the National Office of the Party.”

“An oversight on our part, I am sure.”  Tim said getting into schmoozing mode now.

“I am sure that is what it is.” The Mayor said taking a long pull.

“While I am up here, I wanted to know what your concerns are and how the Senator can help you with them.” Tim using the standard political language he was so used to.

Mayor Howard blew a perfect stream of smoke towards the device on his desk, and it was sucked into the top vent.  “My wife makes me use it, she hates coming in at the end of my term and having to clean everything.”

Tim was confused.  “Your wife sir?”

The Mayor nodded.  “Yes, Helen, she will be taking over this office at the end of my term in December, it is her turn, luckily she will let me keep the trains out there, part of why she agreed to be next, she was tired of them cluttering up the garage.”  There was a knocking at the door to the office and the mayor yelled ‘come in’ before Tim could ask another question.

“Are you the guy with the Lionel 400E?” A middle-aged man said sticking his head in the door.

“That is me.”  The Mayor stood.  “I am afraid that is all the time I have for you, but you can go tell the good Senator that you can count on us.  I know this town is not very large and in the greater scheme it will probably not sway the election one way or the other, but his campaign has my complete support.  I will stump for him as if I was running for the office myself.”   He ushered Tim out thru a side door and closed it behind him.   

Tim was a bit shocked being giving the bum rush out a side door.  He wandered out into a main hallway of the old building.  That was not how this usually went.  Usually when he went to a local politicians office, they usually bent over backwards for someone from a U.S. Senator’s office.  Tim had just been expelled by a toy train. 

He made his way out into the bright fall day with just a slight chill in the air, but it felt warm in the sun.  He was baffled by the Mayor’s attitude; didn’t he know what having a friend in Washington could do for this backwater town.  He needed an ally in this town, so he called the state campaign HQ looking for one. 

“Data and Analysis, Betty speaking.”

“Hi Betty, its Tim.”

“Hi Tim, how goes things up north?”

“Confusing, but I am looking for a friendly face, can you confirm that the Mayor ran in our party and then see who the registered Party Chairperson is in this area.”

“Sure Tim, just give me a minute.” 

Tim waited while he heard clicking on the keyboard.  “Hmmm that is strange.”

“What?”  Tim asked.

“The Party Chairperson seat is vacant, it has been for a number of years, five to be exact.”

Vacant Tim, thought, no seat is ever vacant, maybe filled by a nutter or someone who is totally unqualified, but never vacant, people just weren’t wired that way, someone always ended up in charge, even if by default. “Why did the last Chairperson vacate the seat?”

More typing.  “She passed away and she held the position for forty years.”  More typing.  “The mayor ran as a Democrat, but he is not a member of the party.” 

“Oh.”  Was all Tim had to say, his mind thought about the situation for a minute. “Do we have any new party members that live in this town?”

More clicking on the keyboard, even longer this time. “You are not going to believe this.”

“What?”

“We have not had a new member in that county for ten years.”

“Ten years?”  Tim said shocked.  “How is that possible?” 

“I do not know Tim, but is that all you need, I have another call coming in.”

Tim sighed.  “Okay thanks I will call you again if I can think of anything else.” Ending the phone call Tim decided to do some exploring and like most good researchers he knew where to begin looking, the library. 

He looked in the local papers, he talked to the librarian about voting and where the polling places were.  There was a lot in the papers about the County Commissioners election, the fact that the Sheriff was halfway through his first term but hardly anything but a listing for State Offices that were running and nothing about the national elections at all.  He did confirm the Mayor’s whacky story that his wife was going to be the Mayor as no one was running against her, but she was listed as the opposite party. 

With this basic information Tim began walking around town and took a look at some of the local polling places, a middle school, a church basement, and the Elks Lodge building.  He was increasingly confused and found himself back in the center of town in the park across from city hall again.  Tim found a bench near a bandstand and sat down.  What was going on in this town, why weren’t these people involved.  Tim was confused how could this town be so uninvolved, so out of touch, so disconnected.   

“Mind if I share the bench?” 

Tim looked up at the middle-aged man in nicely pressed white oxford shirt, no suit jacket, snappy blue suspenders, and a blue silk paisley tie, he was holding a brown paper bag in one hand and a thermos in the other.

Tim slide a bit to the left and motioned for the man to sit.

“I know there are other benches, but you see I watch that squirrels nest right up there, very industrious family, and I am not sure how many more warm days we have this fall before I will be stuck inside.”

Tim looked up at the tree where the man was pointing.  He saw the squirrels nest and then noticed the small rodents running around the park.  He looked around and decided to try and figure some things out.  “You mind if I ask you some questions about this town?”

“Only if you introduce yourself, my name is Scott.”

Tim was about to shake his hand, but he saw they were both occupied with unwrapping a sandwich and answered. “My name is Tim.” 

Scott added. “I have only lived here about five years myself, but what I can answer, I will.”

“Perfect.” Tim said. “What do you for a living here?” 

“Certified Public Accountant.” He said before taking another bite of his sandwich, then after a few chews and a sip from his cup from his thermos. “My office is right over there in the Hamblin Building, second floor.”

“So, you know a lot of people in town?”

“A good many.” This was ended with an offer some pretzel sticks.

Tim shook his head. “So why aren’t people engaged in the National election up here, it is two weeks away and I have not seen a single sign, not for my guy or the opposition not even for the State Offices that are up for re-election.”

“Kind of a waste of paper when people know who is running, not sure the point of signs at every intersection and on ramp except to put money in the printer’s pocket.  But your point is that you think people are not engaged in politics.”  The man ate another pretzel. “Hmm, that is interesting.”  Another pretzel. “So why do care if people are involved or not?”

“I work for Senator Fogghound’s re-election campaign.”

“Senator Fogghound huh?  Impressive.”

“I was sent up here because this election is very close, closer than we like, and I came up here to drum up support, but it seems there is no apparatus in place to drum up support for all the good the Senator plans on doing.”

Scott nodded. “Sorry I do not follow politics that much, but you said re-election campaign?”

Tim answered quickly.  “Yes, this will be his third term when he wins.”

“Very optimistic attitude.”  Scott said. “So, what does he plan to do?”

“Well, some of the important things are make government more efficient, tax cuts for the working class and job creation.”

Scott did not say anything, but Tim thought he saw a bit of an eye roll. “I know what you are thinking elected officials make all kinds of promises during elections.” 

“Not at all.”

“Most people do not believe politicians but let me tell you people like Senator Fogghound do the best they can.”

“Maybe so, maybe so.” Scott said as finished the small bag of pretzels.

Tim was getting exasperated, not just with Scott but with the whole situation. “People here are not engaged in an election that could affect their lives.”

Scott nodded and was silent for a few moments and then waved a pretzel in the air a bit like a band leader.  “Do you know the most important word in that sentence was?”

Tim though. “Engaged?”

“No sir. ‘Could’”.  He used the pretzel in the air as though he was underlining the word ‘could’. “You stated this election ‘could’ effect their lives. People  in these parts seem to be under the impression that the Federal government does not have a huge effect on their lives and want as little to do with the government as possible.”

“But it is their representative in Washington.”

“So.”

“So?” Tim said surprised. “It is their way to be heard.”

Scott stifled a laugh. 

“Why is that funny?” Tim getting a bit irritated.

“How hard would it be if I wanted Senator Fogghound to hear me out on a subject? Actually, have a conversation, talk things out, not just a photo opportunity in his office.”

“You can make an appointment with the Senator with his Office Manager.”

“Oh really, and how many hours does the Senator have in a day?”

This threw Tim, but he responded. “I guess as many as anyone else.”

“We have two U.S. Senators for the state, so he mathematically has to listen to half the state, not to mention the demands of his party, and big campaign donors and lobbyists, then he has to build coalitions with other Senators while making deals with them for things they need done.”

Tim began to get defensive.  “He works for the betterment of all the state and the U.S. as a whole.”

Scott nodded.  “I see and how hard do you think it is for me to sit down and talk with the mayor or the County Commissioners?”

“Well, I know the mayor is very easy to get to see.”

“Same with the Commissioners, in fact one of them is my landlord.”  Scott said smiling.   

“That is local politics for you.” Tim said dismissively.

“Isn’t all politics local?”

Tim nodded, he heard that phrase every other day in the campaign headquarters.

“But the problem with that, is people in Washington do not listen or even have time for local people. And the thing is many local people simply want to be left alone and want nothing to do with what happens in D.C.”

“So, you and the people here do not vote?” Tim said being dismissive.  No voice means no impact.”

“That is a telling word.”

“What word?”

“Impact.” He paused. “Impact implies force, the use of force to make something happen. As ‘I am having an impact.’   On the flip side is people like me who do not want to be ‘impacted’ by people we do not in D.C.  If you take that to the moral conclusion, we do not have want to use force on others or do something to them against their will.”

Tim sat there and shook his head, this man was talking nonsense, this was the way the world worked.

“Let me change gears for a second Tim, you remember I wanted to sit down here and watch the squirrels.”

Tim nodded.

“These squirrels gather food for the winter, which is coming soon, they travel around this park, their “neighborhood” and may travel as many as five miles to gather food.”

“I did not know that.”

“Me neither, isn’t Youtube great.” Scott said eating a cookie, Tim noticed he did not offer him one of the two he had. “Do you think these squirrels care what the squirrels are doing at the state capitol, or in Washington D.C.?”

Tim chuckled. “No most likely not, but I see where you are going with this, but people are not squirrels, I saw banana bread on the menu at the diner this morning, those bananas come from outside of this town, along with a lot of other things.”

“Undoubtedly they do, along with probably over ninety percent of the consumer goods that come into this town.” Scott added.

“So they must want to have some say in how those things get here, hence they need to vote.”

“People vote with their wallets.  People send their money out of this town and in exchange other people send goods into this town.” Scott stated. “Thus, they have voice outside of this town with the way their money is spent and what they purchase.”

Tim saw a hole in the philosophy. “People also send their money out of town with their taxes, so the vote changes the way that money is spent.”

Scott smiled. “I think I already pointed out how much I believe my single voice can change the direction of D.C.”

Tim “So who are you going to vote for in this election?”

“I am not going to lend my political power to the process, I do want to try and impose my will upon others, and I do whatever I can to not allow others to impose their will upon me.”

“What do you mean impose their will on you?  No one is forcing you to do anything.”

“I am guessing you degree is in political science or something similar.”

Tim nodded. 

“You do know that if you do not pay your taxes, eventually people with guns will come and take you to jail.”  Scott looked at him for acknowledgement when he saw a nod he continued. “That is the same with any law, if you ignore it or flaunt the violation long enough, they will use force to impose their will upon you.”

“And to protect people.”

“Yes, some laws protect people, and there are some good and decent ones that are good and just, but typically only the ones that have a clear victim that is a person not the nebulous State victim.  Laws should only protects citizens from each other not from themselves.” Scott had finished his lunch a while ago and now gathered up his wrappings and thermos.  “I have to get back to work.”

Tim nodded.  “So do most people around here think like you do?”

“It took a while from what I hear, a very contentious and argumentative lot round here, it started years before I moved here, but it is one of the things that drew me here.”

“Where did you live before?”

Scott smiled.  “D.C. I was a I.R.S. Agent, but now am on the other side of the W-2.”

Tim chuckled.

Scott stood up and shook his hand. “What are you going to do now?  You going to go back to your campaign and tell them what about our small town.”

Tim shrugged.

“Well best of luck to you.”

Tim watched him walk out of the park and then sat on the bench and thought. He came to conclusion that Scott was wrong.  Life was more complex than Scott wanted it to be.  Life had to be more complex. Didn’t it? 



Categories: My Views On The Real World

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